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A Situation Beyond Your Control


AiR member debbiek recently posted a question relating to the difficulty she's having communicating with her son who's in treatment. Treatment Expert Tom Horvath responds with a suggestion.

"My 23-year old son is in treatment in San Diego and is doing well, for the most part. Unfortunately, he is not complying with all their rules, which has been a recurring problem for him throughout his life. When he told me about the things he was getting infractions for, I told him that I thought he was being unduly persecuted, and I know now that was a mistake. He should be following everything is he asked to do, because he is facing a lot of years in jail for prescription fraud. The report from the facility will be given to the court in his case, and the facility wants to avoid any negative comments, so they want him to be 100% complying with all the rules. I do understand this, but no one, especially and addict, can be 100% perfect all the time. I don't know what to do. They want to limit my conversations with him to three times per week because they think I am "enabling" him and not helping with his recovery."


The First Step is Empathy

It appears that, regardless of how much you communicate with your son, what happens in the legal system is not within your control, and probably outside of any influence you could have. My primary suggestion is to be empathic:

"You are in a very difficult position. These rules seem extreme, but they are expecting you to follow them. If you don't follow them, you may end up with a bad recommendation to the judge, who could put you in prison for many years. I wish I could help you, but there is nothing I can do to change this situation. I'm sorry, I wish I could. This must be so frustrating to you."

Of course, the situation is equally frustrating to you! Although I don't agree with how the legal system addresses substance problems, neither of us are going to change that system any time soon. Your son will need to face these issues primarily on his own, and you will need to face that reality.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. My daughter is 38.5 years old and I have had to let go and let God because I am powerless over this addiction that continues to control her. All I can do is pray it is God’s decision in the end what is gonna happen to her. I have to go on and continue to live my life accordingly and leave the rest to God. I know for a fact that the reason why my daughter is doing what she is doing she has not wanted to get clean, has not let go of what is inside the saying “it is not what you’re eating but what’s eating you” makes so much sense to me. I see it about my life and yes we are a product of our past and the pain we decide to hold onto will make us sicker and sicker. I also saw this with my mom God rest her soul it ate her from the inside out, but as for me I am gonna soar no matter what and know who is carrying me through I love the poem Footprints I recommend everyone to at least look at it read it and think about it. I am a writer and this has helped me so much to purge the pain through my poetry. My advice to parents of an addict, NEVER GIVE UP KEEP GOING FORWARD!!!

  2. I think of the AA phrase for both you and your son … Let Go and Let God…

    regardless of how either you of interpret “God” i find it can be a great relief to just let it be, stop having to find the perfect way to support your son and for him to stop having to fight the system/rules and have it his own way.
    Good luck!